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As the school year begins again, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides a variety of back-to-school safety tips on topics ranging from heavy backpacks to teen driving. We’re sharing a few. For AAP’s full list, please visit

Backpack Safety

* The “healthiest” backpacks have wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.

* Pack smart and light. Your child’s backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of his or her body weight. Spread out the contents; use all the pack’s compartments. Put the heaviest items closest to the center of your child’s back.

* If your child has a lot to carry and your school allows it, consider a rolling backpack. But remember, although these packs are easy to roll, you still have to carry them up stairs.

boy-schoolTravel Safety

* Children under age 13 should ride in the car’s back seat. If you are car-pooling, can’t fit everyone in the back and have a child in the front, make sure the child’s seat is pushed as far back as possible.

* If your child takes the bus, remind them to wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb. Be sure your child walks where he or she can actually see the bus driver. That assures the driver can see your child.

* Children who bike to school must always wear a helmet, no matter how short the ride. Make sure they ride on the right, in the same direction as traffic, and wear brightly colored clothing for increased visibility.

* Many car crashes happen when inexperienced teen drivers travel to and from school. Require your teen to always wear a seatbelt. Limit the number of teen passengers. Don’t allow teens to eat, drink, text or talk on cell phones when driving. Limit your teen’s driving at night and in bad weather.

Healthy Eating

* Research shows that kids who eat a nutritious breakfast do better in school and have better energy and concentration. Try to include a protein and a whole grain carbohydrate at breakfast, like apples and peanut butter or oatmeal with almond butter, fruit and milk. (Next week we’ll be offering staples for your freezer and pantry that make healthy back-to-school family eating easier.)

* Check what’s in your school’s vending machines. The healthy choices – fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products and water. Remember, each 12-ounce serving of sugared soda adds approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories to your child’s daily diet. Just one can of sugary soda a day increases your child’s risk of obesity by 60 percent.

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up and accepts most major insurance plans. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.

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